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2023 MLS Cup Playoff picture: Charlotte FC and Sporting Kansas City the big Decision Day winners

The MLS playoffs field is set after an action-packed Decision Day saw some thrilling finishes, with Charlotte FC and FC Dallas amongst the sides clinching their spots, while Sporting Kansas silenced some critics. 

After an eventful round of games, it means 18 teams - nine apiece across both the Eastern and Western Conferences - have qualified for the postseason and will start the journey to the MLS Cup. 

Teams seeded one to seven in each conference automatically qualify for the Round One Best-of-3 series, while those seeded eight to nine will secure their spot in the Wild Card matches.

Wild Card matches will occur on October 25 and 26, while the Round One Best-of-3 series games are pencilled to start on October 28 and run to November 12. 

The Conference semi-finals and Conference Finals - single elimination matches - are set to take place between November 25 and December 3 – while the MLS Cup final is scheduled for December 9.

WhatUSA MLS 2023
WhereUSA & Canada
WhenSaturday February 25 - Saturday October 21 (regular season) & Wednesday October 25 - Saturday December 9 (play-offs)
How to watchApple TV & FOX
OddsFC Cincinnati +400, Inter Miami CF +600, Los Angeles FC +700, Philadelphia Union +900, St. Louis City SC +1100, New England Revolution +1100

Charlotte defy Messi to make progress

Charlotte's ticket to the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs was clinched in superb fashion via Saturday's 1-0 victory over a Lionel Messi-led Inter Miami CF in front of 66,101 fans at Bank of America Stadium.

Head coach Christian Lattanzio hailed the win and the importance of being in the playoff puzzle, with his troops now headed for a Wild Card matchup at the No. 8 seed New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

New York are "a strong team with history behind them" was the verdict of the Charlotte chief, but he's confident that his team can take heart from their win over Inter Miami.

Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina was the hero. With his team holding a 1-0 lead in second-half stoppage time, the Croatian's sprawling save from Leonardo Campana's header ensured they didn't fall into a familiar trap of conceding late and decisive goals.

Meanwhile, New York clinched their spot with a last-second penalty from John Tolkin being the only goal in their Decision Day game at Nashville SC.

Sporting Kansas recovery is complete

On the Western Conference Wild Card side, it's going to be Sporting Kansas City hosting the San Jose Earthquakes at Children's Mercy Park on Wednesday.

Kansas have certainly earned the right to enjoy their progress.

A 10-game winless start to the season had them being called into question publicly by captain Johnny Russell as they struggled to find a fix, but manager and sporting director Peter Vermes saw his side emerge as big winners on Decision Day.

It took a 3-1 win at home over Minnesota United FC - along with Houston Dynamo FC's 3-1 victory at the Portland Timbers - for SKC to snatch a Wild Card spot as the Western Conference's No. 8 seed. Captain Russell played a key role, scoring twice, while Remi Walter also hit the net.

Vermes was "proud" of his team and says any outside noise is being ignored: "For the naysayers, the doubters, no problem. Keep doing it 'cause we'll keep fighting and clawing and making our way."

The teams split the regular season series with one win apiece, with both matches ending 3-0.

Cincinnati top dogs in the East

FC Cincinnati are top seed in the East after winning the 2023 MLS Supporters' Shield, ensuring they have home-field advantage through MLS Cup. They'll be patiently waiting for either Charlotte or New York for this Round One Best-of-3 showdown.

Orlando City SC are the hottest team in the league, losing just twice (11W-2L-4D) since mid-June and they are No. 2 seeds in the East. Winger Facundo Torres and striker Duncan McGuire are two of the MLS's brightest young prospects.

Orlando City will start their MLS Cup journey against No. 7 seed Nashville SC, a side with a solid squad that enters the playoffs with just two wins in their last ten.

Columbus Crew (No. 3 seed) meets Atlanta United (No. 6 seed) as first-year Crew head coach Wilfried Nancy continue to build his approach around striker Cucho Hernandez and midfielder Aidan Morris.

Atlanta got a blow on Decision Day when star playmaker Thiago Almada picked up a red card, but they'll be hoping striker Giorgos Giakoumakis can be a difference-maker without his partner in attack.

Completing the line-up is Philadelphia Union (No. 4) and New England Revolution (No. 5), two of the past four Supporters' Shield winners. The Revolution beat the Union in New England on Saturday, 2-1.

Remarkable St Louis story rolls on 

St Louis' expansion season has defied all expectations, at least externally. They tallied 57 points, secured a 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup berth and are No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Head coach Bradley Carnell's squad will now look to prove themselves in the playoffs, starting against the winner of Kansas City and San Jose's Wild Card tie.

The No. 2 seed Seattle Sounders enter the playoffs on a nine-game unbeaten run and will fancy their chances against FC Dallas - who bagged a 4-1 Decision Day win over LA Galaxy to signal they will do more than just make up the numbers in the playoffs.

LAFC, who are reigning MLS Cup champions, had to settle for a draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC in their Decision Day clash and that has proved to be a dress-rehearsal for their round one series. 

LAFC's Denis Bouanga finished the regular season with 20 goals and seven assists to win the Golden Boot, while Vancouver star Ryan Gauld will want to redeem himself after missing from the penalty spot twice on Saturday. 

Completing the line-up in the West will be Houston Dynamo (No. 4) and Real Salt Lake (No. 5). Houston picked up home-field advantage after a 3-1 win at Portland on Decision Day.

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